Megan Starr, the popular traveling blogger who has been to over 90 countries, and her fellow world explorers picked 12 worthy places to visit in a country that is Europe’s hottest emerging destination. That is Belarus of course.
Lets put Minsk and other popular hot spots aside and focus on smaller places you would never think of until now.
Lying a three-hour train journey from the Belarusian capital city of Minsk, Babruysk (also spelled Babrujsk or Bobruisk) is an often neglected city located deep in the eastern part of the country. The city itself boasts a modern train station, some stunning untouched architecture, plus views and relaxation by the Berezina River.
Babruysk is the seventh biggest city in Belarus yet sits in the shadows of the big three – Minsk, Grodno, and Brest.
When visiting Babruysk, be sure to visit the iconic green library (Katsnelson House), the famous Lenin Square (where a proud statue of the man himself sits) and the magnificent golden-domed St. Nicholas’s Cathedral. The train ride from Babruysk to Minsk is also an enjoyable trip, passing farms, fields, and lakes on the route.
However, the real treat here is for nature lovers, as the Berezina Preserve on the edge of Babruysk has been listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. As well as all of this, Babruysk is located near to the Chernobyl Exclusion zone and day tours can be booked.
By Jonny from Don’t Stop Living (Northern Ireland)
Novogrudok is a town rich in history. Novogrudok was the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and where King Mindaugas was crowned.
The main attraction is the castle ruins on Castle Hill which also offers a great view of the surrounding town. From the hill, you can see the Farny Catholic Church of Transfiguration where the Polish King Jagiello was married.
Novogrudok was the hometown of the poet Adam Mickiewicz, and there are a house museum and a sculpture of him near the ruins. The town is spotted with other old churches built with various architectural styles, including a wooden mosque—one of very few in Belarus.
In the forests surrounding Novogrudok all the way to Lida is where the Bielski brothers had a partisan camp where more than 1,200 Jews were able to survive WWII.
By Jamie (USA)
Lida is a very easy town to visit either as a day trip from Minsk or as a stop on the way to or from Grodno. The main attraction is Lida Castle, the first stone castle built in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Built in 1330, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt many times and finally restored by Belarus in 2010. The castle houses a museum with a unique exhibit on medieval torture devices and also offers a chance to practice archery.
Apart from the castle, there is a museum—Spadchyna—that has a traditional puppet theatre and a craft workshop. There is also a brewery and museum of the Lidskae beer company that offers tours for visitors.
Of course, Lida is not without remnants of the Soviet days. On Lenina Street is a memorial to soldiers who fought in WWII surrounded by a lovely park.
By Jamie (USA)
If you find yourself in Belarus in the summertime and you’re looking for a place to cool down, consider going to the Braslaw lakes and national park.
It’s a large forested area with some 30 large and small interconnected lakes that snuggle the borders of Latvia and Lithuania. This also makes the area a great choice as a last stop before crossing the border on your last visa days.
Depending on your mode of transportation and gear, you can get a remote dacha in the forest, a lakeside (free) camping spot with grill, an apartment in Braslaw town, or a farmstead (усадьба) on the edge of town. All options are decently priced.
The lowest-budget activities you can do in the region are hiking, swimming, and hitchhiking with the friendly locals to different lakes and points of interest. Check out the Gora Mayak (Гора Маяк) and Zamkavaya Gora (Замкавая Гора) viewpoints, since Belarus is quite flat.
With an added budget, you can rent a kayak or bicycle, practice wakeboarding, visit or stay at one of the sanatoria, and dine out lavishly with lake fish or forest game. Most of all, enjoy the calmness and green of a place that would be overrun with tourists if it was in a more popular European destination.
A highlight of a summer evening spent in Braslaw is to watch the sunset and swim with the locals, with a bottle of Georgian wine (сухое вино = dry wine, everything else is sweet or semi-sweet!) and some snacks.
By Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker (Netherlands)
Text and photos courtesy of Megan Starr and her team